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Review: High-Rise – “A film that lingers in the mind”


Firstly, I need to preface this review by stating the facts; I have not read the J. G. Ballard book from which Ben Wheatley has adapted his latest film High-Rise. So I came at this from a fresh perspective without expectations and this is a review of the film in isolation without comparison.

High-Rise follows Dr Laing (Tom Hiddleston) as he moves into a dominating tower block with all the modern conveniences, a pool, a gym and a supermarket. Residents social standing is represented by which floor they live at, a living class structure with those at the bottom in the dark whilst those at the top, including the architect, live in light, elegant surroundings. However, the magazine style life in the tower starts to rot from within as it begins to isolate residents from the outside world and when power failures and problems begin to affect those in the bowels of the tower the societal representation begins to degenerate into brutal madness.

The first impact of the film is in its bold visual style; Ben Wheatley delivers a beautiful assault on the eyes (and the mind), the editing and shots often have a dream like surreal quality with the colourful beginnings contrasted by the shadowed world of disintegration. This stylish, eye-catching design carries across into the production style from the brutalist imposing tower to the retro designed interiors; the film creates the quality of another yet similar world. The music fits the atmosphere and feel of the film, often delivering a Kubrick like classical soundtrack to sometimes violent scenes and I loved the use of Abba’s SOS.

Tom Hiddleston delivers a charming and charismatic performance yet with a hint of internal sadness. Sienna Miller plays Charlotte who lives in the floor above who manages to convey the emotions of the situation excellently. The supporting cast strengthens the film with Jeremy Irons playing the obsessed architect and Luke Evans effective as an often savage, lower floor revolutionary.

It’s an excellent allegory for society and visual feast however the story could have been a bit tighter in certain areas. It reminded me both of A Clockwork Orange for its brutalist future but also Snowpiercer for how the tower represents class in society. Whilst I enjoyed the film it took me a while afterwards to compute it all. It’s a film that lingers in the mind. Whilst this is one of its strengths it is unconventional and I sense it might have a potential ‘Marmite’ quality for some to polarise an audience, a love or hate kind of relationship. I implore people to go and see it for themselves; not just because of its strong visuals, good soundtrack and decent acting but because of the fact it’s more of a film that you have to experience and feel and yourself.



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